Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Martin

Film: Martin
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

When I think of George Romero, I think of zombies. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. After all, the various Dead movies are where Romero made his name, even if all of them haven’t really lived up to the promise of the first trilogy, and the first two especially. He did other things, though, including Martin in the mid-‘70s. In fact, Martin was produced before Dawn of the Dead, so this comes from a time before Romero was pigeonholed into being the zombie guy.

Martin is interesting for a number of reasons beyond being a non-zombie Romero film. This is his take on the vampire story, and it’s very different from the typical vampire tale. Martin (John Amplas), our title character, is evidently completely human, but believes himself to be a vampire. Martin thinks he is 87 years old despite looking 19. He’s fascinated with blood, and has figured out the best way to get the blood he believes he needs. His method is to knock his victims out with a syringe and then use a razor blade to drain the blood from his victims. While all of this is happening, in Martin’s mind the world is reduced to black-and-white, and the reality of a struggling victim is transformed into a Gothic romance.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Green Room

Film: Green Room
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

I don’t go to the movies that often, but I do pay attention to the movies that are released. After all, a chunk of them are going to show up on my various Oscar lists and the 1001 list every year. Green Room isn’t that sort of movie, of course, but I kept my ears open about it because the buzz on it was very good. So, when I came across it at one of the libraries I frequent, it was a no-brainer to check it out. I’m not about to call Green Room the second coming of horror movies, but I’m pleased to report that it’s a tight thriller that skimps on nothing.

The members of the band the Ain’t Rights wake up one morning in a cornfield, having driven off the road the night before. A pair ride a bike toward the nearest town and siphon off some gas to get back on the road and continue on their way. Eventually they reach their destination and are interviewed by Tad (David W. Thompson) for a local college radio station. He’s also promised them a gig that has fallen through. He lines up another one for them. The upside is that it will pay them $350. The downside is that it’s at a neo-Nazi club in the middle of nowhere in Oregon. Needing the money, the bad accepts the gig.

Ten Days of Terror!: Luther the Geek

Film: Luther the Geek
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

Well, I’ve been taken to some dark places on the Fangoria movie list before, and I’m sure I’ll go to some dark places again. Luther the Geek is the sort of film that makes me feel like I need a shower after watching it. This feels like a step above a snuff film, the sort of movie that feels like there’s some kind of grease on the actual film stock. It’s very much made in the same mode as a film like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I have to say that with it coming from Troma I expected a lot more camp and some nastiness, but I didn’t expect to come out the other side feeling like I’d been covered in oil. That this was filmed within about an hour drive of my house just makes that worse.

Here’s the premise: in the past, Luther Watts (Edward Terry as the adult version) was fascinated by a carnival geek. When he grew up, he became obsessed with killing people and drinking their blood. Naturally he’s tossed into a mental institution, but is eventually paroled despite speaking only in chicken clucks and having fashioned a set of metal dentures for himself. So, when he’s out, he naturally starts killing again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Ginger Snaps

Film: Ginger Snaps
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Some movie monsters come with very specific, unusual tropes. The monsters created by Dr. Frankenstein, for instance, tend to be sympathetic. Vampires tend to be romanticized. The strange trope that goes with werewolves is that the people who become werewolves are typically innocent and undeserving of their terrible fate. We get that from the very first film of the subgenre. What does the gypsy woman say to Larry Talbot? “Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night/May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” That’s a trope that going to be played for all it’s worth in Ginger Snaps.

We have two sisters who are about a year apart, but are in the same grade in school. These are Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins). The Fitzgerald girls are very much the social outcasts in their high school. They’re also both obsessed with death, and whenever possible will turn school projects toward the macabre. One evening with their parents out, the two decide to kidnap the dog belonging to Trina (Danielle Hampton), their high school rival, they are attacked by…something. As it happens, dogs around the town have been turning up mutilated. And, as it happens, Ginger has just entered menarche (look it up) despite being 16. This means that Ginger gets mauled by whatever it is (c’mon…it’s a werewolf). When the thing gives chase, it’s killed by Sam (Kris Lemche) who hits it with his truck.

Ten Days of Terror!: Pet Sematary

Film: Pet Sematary
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

There was a time in my life when I read a lot of Stephen King. One of my brothers and one of my sisters did as well. I haven’t read close to all of his work and I haven’t read any in some time, but for a few years, Stephen King was probably 50% of my reading material. One of the reasons I stopped reading a lot of King is that he often has problems with his endings. Sometimes he really punks out on the end. When he gets an ending right, though, it’s pretty special. Pet Sematary is one of those times. As a book, Pet Sematary is slow, almost dull for the first several hundred pages. When King finally gets us to where we know he wants to get us, it becomes a freight train. The movie is exactly the same way, almost certainly in part because King wrote the screenplay.

The Creed family, Louis (Dale Midkiff), Rachel (Denise Crosby), daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and baby Gage (Miko Hughes) have moved from Chicago to rural Maine because Louis has just been hired to work at the University of Maine. Their new house is large and comes with a nice bit of land, but is also on a major, truck-infested highway. Across the highway is Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), who warns the family about the highway. He also introduces the family to the pet cemetery down the path beyond their house. According to Jud, many of those pets are in the cemetery thanks to the road.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Wendigo

Film: Wendigo
Format: DVD from Wilmington Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

Different cultures and different indigenous groups have their own monsters and myths. Some of them seem strange to us simply because the mythic monsters we grew up with are what we grew up with. It makes them seem normal, and other cultures’ versions are weird in comparison. The wendigo myth—an ancient cannibalistic spirit that invades the bodies of men and corrupts them—is a purely American myth, and one that has been variously handled by filmmakers and authors in the past. In the case of the film Wendigo, we’re losing the cannibalism aspects of the classic monster here along with just about everything else it would seem.

Wendigo is clearly a horror movie, but it also doesn’t seem to know that until the final 12-15 minutes. Oh, there are a few moments where we get hints of horror movie, but nothing really happens that puts us all the way there until the end. And even then, we’re never sure that what we’re seeing is real. It could just as easily be the dream of one character or the hallucination of another. I know I’m tipping my hand here, but there are typically two possibilities for something like this. One possibility is a mystery to ponder. The other is an unsatisfying conclusion. We’re in the realm of the second possibility in this case.

Ten Days of Terror!: Duel

Film: Duel
Format: DVD from Seneca Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

One of the things that I find interesting about movies is how many acclaimed, award-winning directors started out doing thrillers and horror movies. Counted in that number is Steven Spielbeg. Jaws wasn’t his first horror-themed movie; the made-for-television Duel was. Duel is based on a Richard Matheson story and a Matheson script as well, so he started from a good place. Duel may not show the polish of Spielberg’s later efforts, but it’s a hell of a good place to start from. This is a tight thriller that uses solid camera work to ratchet the tension for the full 90 minute running time.

David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is a traveling salesmen heading out to make a sales call. On the way, he gets caught behind a dirty big rig going well under the speed limit. David passes it, and a few moments later, the rig passes him and slows down again. David goes around again and when the truck starts to approach him again, he speeds off down the highway.